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Herbalist's Journal > APRIL 2011



   "Happiness? The color of it must be Spring green.."

                             ~ Frances Mayes ~


April 1 ~ For gardeners, the April Fools day joke is whether we can actually start gardening....or not. It has always been my folly to rush out when the weather is nice early and get a head start.....and always my experience that it never works out. Early warmth is no foil for the several more frosts, snows, days of cool/damp soil that will rot most seeds. So, outside work is still a few weeks away--but now is the time to get the seedlings under way  indoors.  I usually start herb seeds first as they take the longest to germinate, followed by flowers and then veggies (except tomatoes/peppers and eggplant-- all heat lovers that take a long time to ripen).

April 2 ~ Here in Central New York, sinus infections are infamous!! Everyone around here--including my family, has one right now.  In preperation for Passover in a few weeks, I dug some horseradish roots--which works out nicely because there is nothing better for bad sinuses than sniffing and eating raw horseradish.

April 8 ~ An old apprentice stopped by to see me before moving and starting a new life out west. She brought me some much needed salve and lotion containers and I will give her several books accumulated over the years that pertain to Western US herbs--interesting, but not at all useful for me here in the East. She, on the other hand, will have to re- learn the most useful local herbs.....as well as the most common local health complaints,  once she moves.

April 9 ~ A whole salad of fresh spring greens!! Mustard, chickweed, dandelions, chives, horseradish......

April 11 ~ All of the snow is gone, it is warm and breezy, I picked up trash and got used to just being outside........but most importantly, I started my very long list of things that need to be fixed/cleaned/expanded/given up on/tended,  in the gardens. The first of the Coltsfoot is up and blooming--which always tells me spring is here to stay in spite of temporary setbacks of occasional snow or a freezing night. The greenhouse has now transitioned into my seedling incubator, rather than my winter refuge and the struggle now is to keep it COOL enough. It is exciting to be able to start so many herbs and flowers  I've always had to buy as plants.

April 14 ~ Now that spring greens are up---please don't forget to chop up dandelion leaves or tiny mint leaves into pasta dishes, soups, on pizzas.........Herbs suffer from being used too narrowly in only certain types of cooking or medicine. Use them in everything!!!

April 15 ~ I actually did see an old friend at the grocery store yesterday, but this time of year, every morning when I take a walk, some new/old plant is popping up, that has been dormant since Fall--and it is a cross between finding a treasure and seeing a long lost friend. I usually greet them with a "Hi, how have you been?"

April 16 ~ Horsetail is beginning to come up along roadsides and damp areas. Along with the ginkgo tree, Horsetail is one of our most prehistoric plants--meaning it has not changed in structure much for millions of years---only its height, which has diminished from several to 20 feet tall, down to 1-2 feet. It looks like it belongs with the dinosaurs too. It is a hard plant--and was and can still be used, bundled together , to make pot scrubbers. It's structural strength is due to the high content of Silica (what sand is made of) and is used as a tea or tincture to aid in bone strength, building of tendons/muscles and making hair and nails strong and shiny. It is medicinal--not edible--so use in small amounts.

April 17 ~ We are almost done with the woodstove for the year and I have a nice, big pail of wood ashes. My grandma used to use hers to make lye for soap--but that is one, labor intensive chore I gave up in favor of buying lye. I do save my ashes though, to add to soil (in very small amounts) before planting flowers and some veggies. But i have two other, cooler uses for them. I have one bag in my barn to use to sprinkle around plants that are being devoured by slugs. The crawl over the ashes and shrivel up. YEAH!!! Then, I keep another bag with my cleaning supplies and use them, usually in Spring and again at Christmas time to polish my silver service. I just add a few drops of water and use a soft paper towel and it is a non-toxic way of polishing that does not take too much elbow grease, is free and does not smell up the house. I hope I don't need to remind anyone that wood ashes are the residue of herbs !!!!

April 19 ~ Things look different around here after last summer's construction. I had a few small knee walls put in, and I have more nooks and crannies and more planting space, so I ordered and planted more bulbs last Fall and have many new little pockets of daffodils, grape hyacinth, etc. Then I had new space on a hill to put in a few Blueberry plants, more shady areas in my front yard near the new porch to put in Lilies of the Valley and Astilbe. It will be an adventure watching all of them unfold over these two seasons.

April 20 ~ Whether you celebrate Passover, Easter or both, this time of year we have hard boiled eggs EVERYWHERE---which menas we have lots of eggshells everywhere too. Don't waste them!! Wash them well and dry them and use them for any of the following: 1)Crunch them up, and add to vinegar. Let set a week and then strain and every day, take a TBsp. full. It will build your immune system and add USABLE calcium to your diet. 2) Crunch them up and store them to sprinkle around plants being eaten by slugs (if you don't have wood ash ). They climb over the shells and get cuts--shrivel up and die!! 3) Crunch them up and use as fertilizer as you transplant seedlings into the garden. 4) Add them to your compost pile.  Also, if you have chickens, feed the shells back to them to rebuild their own calcium stores so your eggs are nice and nutrtious and the chickens stay healthy.

April 22 ~ It is Good Friday--the traditional day for planting Parsley seeds. It is said that only a truly good--or truly bad person can plant parsely and that it "travels to hell and back 6 times before sprouting"--to explain the long length of time it does take for these seeds to germinate.  Be patient--once they come up, they grow quickly.

April 23 ~ After going out and about town yesterday, i foud most people were angry and depressed over the weather. I can count myself among them---but WHY? My old gardening records show this is pretty typical April weather. Looking back over several nature writers confirms the same. We are impatient for activity, but how can we forget from year to year, what early spring is like here? Who knows, but apparently, it is a FAVOR nature is doing for us if the following old quote is to be believed...."A cold and moist April fills the cellar and fattens the cows".  So we need to continue on, taking some nice warm herbal calming teas and fortify ourselves with some nettles---because next month, we will be cursing the May flies and the weeds and.............!!!

April 25 ~ This very long winter and its multitude of infectious scourges has wiped me out of my Poke Root supply--which is no easy task as it is only given in dosages of 1-5 DROPS at a time! It has been years since i made some since poke plants come and go and i have not found one growing on my property in many years. So, I ordered some dried root to make a batch of tincture until I can find some growing. I like to use the berries as well, but it is very difficult to buy the root or berries (which are all better used fresh anyway) because they are toxic (thus the dosage of so few drops)---but they work so well--especially in cases where  an illness has really become deeply rooted--like pneumonia, sinusitis, etc.. I made a quart--which I am happy to know I have on hand--but hope not to need for quite a while!

April 26 ~ I keep Chamomile tea in my pantry (to make tea on days when I am stressed or when my grandson is unruly or sick) and now, I keep a box of it in my greenhouse to make a "tea" to spray on my seedlings to ward off the deadly "damping off disease". As seedlings start to grow, if conditions contribute to too much air moisture, a fungus can make a healthy plant simply--and suddenly--rot at soil level ---as if something bit it off. Chamomile has long been the preventative herb for this by making a strong tea and spraying it on seedlings 1-2 times per day. Though there are plenty of other anti-fungal herbs (calendula, oregano, rosemary, among them....) I have never read about spraying them in the same manner. I have never had the need to try as Chamomile has always worked--and losing seedlings to test a new spray is not on my to do list. my feeling is, however, something in the chamomile makes it perfect for this type of fungal disease, whereas the other mentioned herbs are best used on more serious fungi---perhaps I will test them on tomato blight if the weather engenders that this year.

April 27 ~ One week after an inch of snow......and after just 2 days of warmth--and a lot of rain--my plants and weeds have taken off. Up are the Trillium, Solomon's Seal, May Flowers, Lungwort---and the garlic and asparagus!!!!!!

April 28 ~ Today will be the first of my shopping sprees at Nurseries. Unfortunately, I have long forgotten what plants I ordered---that should be arriving shortly--but I always get violas first---and LOTS of them. First, I put them in planters on my front porch, which is still sunny as the trees have not leafed out yet. After a month or so, I replant them around the gardens and then plant the porch containers with Impatients and begonias since they tolerate shade and will last the rest of the summer. Violas/Johnny Jump Ups/Heartease.....so many names for such a small plant--but they are delightful and EDIBLE!!!!!

April 30 ~ This is my daughter's birthday, but also Beltain begins at sundown, a Celtic fertility festival that requires a bonfire and offerings of fresh plants in thanksgiving of earth's bounty and to ensure the same for this growing season. always a great, outdoors day--complete with Vegan marshmallows roasted in the fire.

  There were enough spears of Asparagus up to  make a meal. They were so tender, that I didn't even bother to steam them, just cut them into a big salad


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